The Collaborator Challenge

Peter is my 23 year old son, who’s been very involved in my business since before it became a business. He loves to be the boss of me! While he often comes in during my soaping time and offers his valuable suggestions, this time he got to see up close and personal how soap is made! 

I invited Peter to be my collaborator mostly because of his prior interest in what I’ve been doing. My whole family has been involved in naming my soaps and sometimes offering ideas, but my husband isn’t a fan of working with lye, and all my other local possibilities (my daughter Jeanne, my son Andrew, my son-in-law Ben and Peter’s girlfriend Rachel) were all busy working or in school. Andrew has since expressed an interest in “having a turn” to make soap. As my dad would say, “Will wonders never cease!”

I sent Peter the video suggestions for the drop swirl and mica line soaps. I’m pretty sure he didn’t watch either of them but he immediately said he wanted to try the drop swirl. I made him look at the photos of each finished product before I agreed to the drop swirl. Patience isn’t usually one of his strengths, so watching videos about how to do something does not appeal to him. Maybe that’s why I had to tie his bow ties for his high school proms. I’m not sure he could have gotten through the how-to videos that I watched and re-watched in order to tie them for him.

Peter decided that he wanted to make a patriotic soap using red, white and blue mica, and one of his favorite parts of this whole process has been naming the soap. Here are some of the finalists in the naming contest:

In soap we trust
Stars stripes and suds
Don’t tread on soap
Give me soap or give me suds
You’re a grand ‘ol soap
One nation under soap
My fellow soapians
United we soap
Let soap reign
Give me soap or give me death
The soap of rights

In the end, we decided that United We Soap has the right vibe, given that in the soaping community we’re all united in loving what we do.

I gave Peter a choice of 4 scents: Brambleberry’s ginger lime and vanilla select FOs, WSP’s citrus splash FO and the one he liked the best, WSP’s bergamot and white tea FO. He didn’t want anything too “girly” so I tried to stay away from the florals. He loves orange EO but somehow it didn’t fit with the red, white and blue theme. 

Peter chose the colors and we put them into the measuring cups that he was going to use to pour thirds of the soap batter. I had lined the 2 lb mold ahead of time. We talked through the process before he ever picked up a stick blender and when I gave him the lye safety sheet he said, “Can’t you just tell me?” I told him. 

Once the oils and lye water had cooled, he put on his goggles and we started. I wished I had thought about getting different gloves before we got together because he’s a really big guy and had a tough time getting the gloves on and off. I needed to help. 

I gave him instructions about pouring over the immersion blender stick, although I’m not sure I got a picture of that. I gave him verbal instructions about tapping the blender on the bottom of the bowl and not pulling it all the way out of the batter (which he did once, but not while it was on, thank goodness!).

I also gave instructions about how we wanted the consistency and how it needed to be well mixed but thin enough so that it didn’t thicken while he was pouring.

Once it seemed like he had gotten it to a thin trace, he eyeballed ⅓ into each of the three measuring cups and started mixing by hand.

We almost forgot to add the fragrance oil before he started pouring but remembered just in time to mix it in. Whew!

Peter pouring his patriotic soap

I took more video than what I’m showing here, but there was some mild swearing going on during this process. Peter is quite the perfectionist, and if you’ve ever made soap you know that it’s impossible to be completely tidy. I have no idea how they do it in YouTube videos but I have to think they stop the camera and wipe down the workspace very periodically. 

By the time we were finished, we had a real mess, but when he first got started and probably through his first 2 pours with each color, he was trying to perfectly get the colors to the edges of the mold without getting any batter on the sides of the mold or on the top. That’s where the swearing came in. I’ve included a photo of him using a small spatula to wipe down the inside wall of the mold when he “made a mistake”. I think he gets it now. You never know what a “mistake” will look like in the end. It might be the thing that makes the batch fabulous!

He likes to take his time and did so with this process. As we got toward the end, he realized that the soap was starting to set, so he moved a little faster. But I really believe he enjoyed the process. And that’s what it’s all about, right? It’s not only what you get out of it, but what you put into it. 

When all the batter was in the mold, he was very unhappy with the way it looked, but I gave him a skewer and invited him to decorate the top. I drew a couple of pictures of what he could do to make it look nicer and we talked about him not putting the skewer down too far, but just dipping into the top of the loaf. I think he did a really nice job on the top. He was very tempted to keep going, but when he was happy with what it looked like, we stopped. 

I showed him how we sprayed it with some alcohol and covered it to gel and get the brightest colors. (I don’t put my soap in the oven.)

I waited two days to unwrap and cut. Peter wasn’t able to be with me when I cut it and didn’t see it until 3 days after that, but I did send him pictures as soon as it was cut. His girlfriend Rachel was impressed with his first effort.

I have to admit that I was just a little jealous of his successful first time soaping. Of course, he had someone with him who knew what they were doing and had had many successful batches under my belt. I didn’t have that. I read books and watched videos and jumped in. Still. I think he did an absolutely wonderful job on his first attempt.

Here are some of the photos of his finished product, cleaned up and beveled. Congratulation, Peter! Nice job.

The whole batch beveled and put back together
The piece on the left is my favorite
A pyramid of United We Soap

2 thoughts on “The Collaborator Challenge”

  1. So fabulous!! Great job, Peter! I agree – this is a wonderful drop swirl for a first time soap! Anita, you’re a fantastic (and patient!) teacher! 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness Anita, I could relate to this post in practically everything you said! If I were to have done this with my 22 year old son I think the experience would have been identical. Actually, maybe not quite as identical because there would likely have been much stronger language – either from him …or from me! Peter did an amazing job! I just love the creative names, too. You guys are an awesome team!

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